If I owned Megamind, there would be a sequel. Nuff said.
Bernard and Roxanne paused in front of the pathway to her parents' house. Bernard gulped. It was a nice place, just like all the millions of other houses they had passed in the neighborhood. He had never been in suburbia before, as he usually confined his rampages to the business area of Metrocity. It was…nice. Peaceful. Normal. The word had been anathema to him; normal had always meant boring, good, conformist, condemning. Who cared what normal people thought? They had no life, no passion; they went to work every day and never came out of their safe, hypocritical cocoons. But Roxanne—Roxanne took normal to whole new level. In fact, he almost wondered if she wasn't normal; not many girls could have taken so many kidnappings without a blink.
"It's okay, Bernard," said Roxanne. "They'll love you."
"R—really?" he whispered.
"Yes, you have so much in common with them. You're an intellectual, you listen to jazz… just don't say anything about how awesome Megamind is, okay? You can't imagine how refreshing it is to meet someone who isn't scared silly of him, but my parents hate him." She rolled her eyes. "Probably because he's been kidnapping me for five years."
"Ooh," said Bernard. Roxanne walked ahead of him down the sidewalk. He ran to catch up with her. "Roxanne?" he said, touching her shoulder. "I'm really not sure about this—"
"Why? What's wrong?" She brushed her bangs out of her eyes. "Look, I'm not introducing you as the boyfriend; I just think you would really cheer them up. You know, what with the resident evil overlord in town smashing everything. Luckily, they moved out a few years ago, but the area's flooded with refugees and you can't turn on the TV without hearing bad news."
Bernard's eyes widened. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault."
"I'm sorry. For you."
She smiled at him. "Thanks."
He glanced down at the perfectly mowed lawn, peeking at her when she turned her back. Scampering over the small stone porch, she knocked on the door. Bernard waited on the sidewalk, shifting from foot to foot. On the other side, there were hurried footsteps, and the door opened, revealing an older Roxanne, with a few adjustments. Bernard gawked. The last time he'd met someone's mother was at shool. But they hadn't been nice to him, because he hadn't been normal. While the other kids struggled over spelling and multiplication, he was doing calculus and carrying a fish in a bowl around. Would Roxanne's mother be nice? Or would she narrow her eyes, sniff, and turn away, as countless others had done?
Letting the light from inside flood the yard, Mrs. Ritchi hugged Roxanne. "Oh, sweetie, I've been so worried about you! Are you okay? Not just physically, but emotionally?"
"Mm, yeah." Roxanne nodded. "I'm fine. I've been a bit sad since—since Bill—"
Bernard felt his throat tighten. Sniffing, he wiped his eyes and hoped no one noticed. Unfortunately, the movement brought Mrs. Ritchi's eyes on him.
"Is this the young man you've told me about, Roxanne?"
Shooting her mother a glare, Roxanne turned around. "Yes, this is Bernard."
He gave a tentative smile.
"Hi," said her mother. "Roxanne's told me so much about you."
"Come on, Bernard, don't stand in the shadows," Roxanne told him, giving him a heart-meltingly warm smile.
Stammering, he ascended the first step. And nearly squawked when Mrs. Ritchi hugged him too. She felt bonier than Roxanne, and somehow frailer. She smelled of tangerine, which was a nice scent. He had to remind Minion to get some. Well… this was a turnaround.
When she released him, she held him by the shoulders, gazing at him fondly. "I'm sorry, I hope I didn't embarrass you. It's just, Roxanne says you've saved her life twice; I couldn't help it."
"I… I saved her life?" said Bernard wonderingly.
"That's what Roxanne said. You got her out of the Museum right before it exploded AND you pulled her out of that alligator pit." She paused. "Was there really disco playing? I thought she was joking."
"Er, yes, there was. Minion likes it."
"How do you know that, Bernard?" Roxanne asked.
"I read it somewhere. In a book! Is there dinner, Mrs. Ritchi? I mean, I know there's going to be dinner—at least, I assume so, since people usually have dinner when they invite people over—right?"
Mrs. Ritchi grinned at him. "Call me Patricia." Knocking his arm—she was so similar to Roxanne—she beckoned him inside, where he found himself in completely unfamiliar surroundings. He was in a well-lit hallway, with an elaborate lamp resting on a small table. White gauzy curtains covered the windows and the hardwood floor gleamed gold. Besides a few early burglaries, the Warden's home, and Roxanne's apartment, this was the first human dwelling he had ever been in. Mrs. Ritchi—no, Patricia—led them into the living room, where a plush sofa and an adequate entertainment system awaited them. Patricia and Roxanne sat down, so he did too.
"So, how have things been going for you? When I heard about the museum, I was so scared; I totally freaked." She shook her head, getting rid of a bad memory. "Do you know who did it?"
"Megamind, who else? I just wish I knew why…"
"Spite, probably. Just hammering one more nail into the coffin."
"Maybe not," Bernard mumbled, but no one heard it.
"That's not like him, though. I've known him for so many years, and he's never been vindictive. Never."
"Roxanne, he stuck spikes and machine guns in your face on a daily basis. And now, what do you know, he went and murdered someone. He's a monster. I'm just glad you're still alive after going through all that."
It was a good thing that no one was looking at Bernard, or they would have seen him staring at Patricia with a very hard expression indeed.
"He's not a monster, Mom. He's just—yes, he did something I thought he would never do, but that doesn't make him less human."
Bernard gazed at the reporter, his glare vanishing. "Human?" he breathed.
Roxanne did a facepalm. "Okay, not human, but understandable. He's not incomprehensibly evil, like all those idiots say. He's not harmless, I'm not saying that, but he's—"
"Not unfamiliar," said Bernard.
"Exactly. You always know what to say, Bernard."
"You actually forgot that a blue alien with a giant head wasn't human?" said Patricia. "Oh, Roxanne, I guess we know for sure that you're my daughter, just in case we weren't sure."
Roxanne gave a slight smile, but her hands twisted in her lap. "You know, I know it sounds crazy, but when Metro Man… got killed, my heart broke for both of them."
"It did?" Bernard whispered.
"He was always going down a bad road, but I never thought he'd make the turn. Don't interrupt, Mom. If you had known him like I did, you'd understand. The way he kidnapped me, the way he fought Metro Man, it was just a game."
"Exactly!" Bernard burst out. When they both looked at him, he met their eyes bashfully. "I mean, he didn't really mean to do it. He was just having fun that day, he didn't really mean to—"
"Yeah, okay, if you consider blowing people up with death rays fun, I guess I can buy that," said Patricia.
Luckily, Bernard didn't reply, because a man he assumed to be Roxanne's father walked in, his hair wet.
"Hey, Trish, when's dinner? We're having spaghetti, right?"
"Why is your hair wet?" said Bernard.
"I just took a shower."
"So, your name's Bernard, right?"
"Hey, I heard how you got Roxanne out of that museum in time. Thank you."
"Oh, it's nothing."
"Wow, handsome and modest?" said Patricia. "Rare combination." She winked.
"How did you know it was going to blow up, Bernard?" said Roxanne. "I never thought to ask."
"Oh! I… I… saw him walk in. I heard his entire evil monologue—quite splendidly villainous, by the way." He pointedly ignored Roxanne's look.
"Splendidly villainous?" said Patricia.
"Bernard likes the bad guys," Roxanne explained. "He thinks they're much more interesting. He's an expert on Megamind; if you ever want to sneak in his Evil Lair, he's the person to take with you."
"I know a few things," said Bernard. "Good guys are boring."
"Yeah, like I used to think Metro Man was?" said Mr. Ritchi. "I'm John, by the way." He held out his hand; after a few seconds hesitation, Bernard took it and found his hand going up and down. It was strange to touch someone besides Minion or Roxanne, but he managed a tentative smile. John had greying hair and sharp, alert eyes.
"Metro Man boring?" said Bernard.
"I was really grateful for everything he did for Roxanne, but he played the crowd, just like Megamind. I used to wonder in the back of my mind if he was really that different, but… he died saving Roxanne. Okay, he was kind of smarmy, but those things don't matter. What matters is that he had soul. He was there for the people."
"Yes, of course he was different!" said Bernard. "He didn't destroy things just for the sake of destroying them, he never took anything from the citizens, even though he could have done so effortlessly; he was good! He was always there for everyone, no matter how boring or lowly they were; he was a one-man police force! I just wish… he wasn't gone. I miss him so much."
"Oh, Bernard." Roxanne slipped her arm around his shoulders. "I know how you feel; I—I miss him too."
"And the worst thing," he sniffed, looking at her beautiful, beautiful face, "is that there's no one to rescue Roxanne." Which really was a pity; kidnapping her had been one of the things he loved best about being a villain. But without a hero, he had no excuse. Real supervillains didn't abduct damsels just because they felt like it and/or because they secretly rather liked their damsels. It would have been grossly unprofessional, not to mention… unseemly.
"Maybe I don't need rescuing," said Roxanne, with a gentle smile.
Bernard sighed wistfully. "No, you're a brave damsel, aren't you?" Maybe Roxanne could rescue herself? Oh, the possibilities!
"Damsel?" said John.
"Every supervillain has one." Drawing away from Roxanne, he continued. "A villain without a damsel is like…" he sighed again. "A villain without a hero." Currently, he had neither, which felt like such a failure. But soon, he would have someone to fight again, and maybe Roxanne to torment as well. Heroes had to rescue all people, even if they were total strangers or mere acquaintances. He didn't have to kidnap Hal's girlfriend (if Hal even had a girlfriend—sometimes he had doubts about that boy); he could kidnap his own girlfriend, and Hal would still be obliged to save her. Because Hal would be a hero, and heroes did things like that. Oh, the elegant simplicity of it!
"We need a hero, that's for sure," John agreed. "Hey, Trish, is that spaghetti boiling? You better go check it."
"Holding out for a hero," breathed Bernard.
"You listen to that?" Roxanne's eyes glinted mischievously. "Let me see, Bonnie Tyler, Jennifer Saunders, or Frou Frou?"
"All of them."
"You listen to that? It's kind of a girls' song, isn't it?" said John mildly. "Not that I'm judging—"
"It is? I thought it was about fighting. And he's gotta be strong, and he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be larger than life—I need a hero."
"I didn't know you sang."
"Sometimes I sing. It reminds you of Metro Man, doesn't it? And all those epic battles of good and evil between him and Megamind. Whenever I hear it, I think of him."
"I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood?"
"That's fighting, too. It's the adrenaline rush."
"It's not a girly song." If it was girly, then why had he cried every time he heard it when he was recovering from Metro Man's…? No. Better not to think about it. Then again, he had been getting tearful lately.
Roxanne gazed at him knowingly, her lips pursed. Then, unable to restrain herself, she laughed in delight. "That's so cool."
Bernard shrugged. "It's a good song."
"Spaghetti's ready," Patricia called.
"It smells delicious, Patricia!" Bernard exclaimed, following everyone else into the dining room.
"Thanks," she said, bustling around in the kitchen. "Everyone be seated. Roxanne, can you help?"
Roxanne left the dining room, leaving him alone with John.
"So, what's a damsel, exactly?" said John. "As far as I can tell, it's a kidnap victim, but Roxanne seems to think it's more specific. What do you think? I'd like to have your opinion." He lowered his voice, enough that Bernard felt justified in leaning in. "Between you and me, I think she's a bit biased. A few years back, she would hardly hear a word against him. After Metro Man died, though, she stopped defending him so much. I guess she woke up."
Bernard's world reeled. This was getting…interesting. "Not a word against him?"
"Yeah, it was crazy. She kept insisting that he was harmless, that he was nothing to be worried about, that he would never hurt her. And this when he was kidnapping her every weekend and trying to kill her in thousands of creative ways."
"That makes sense," he said quietly. "I have reason to believe she told him that, too. It's her way of fighting back."
"Really?" said John doubtfully.
"Nothing annoys him more than hearing that he's harmless," said Bernard.
"Yeah, but she doesn't have to tell us that. Sometimes I worry she has Stockholm Syndrome or something." He chuckled, showing Bernard that it was a joke.
Although Stockholm Syndrome presented several very interesting possibilities, he made himself focus.
He leaned forward, eyes narrowing in mischief. "If she ever gets Stockholm Syndrome, I'll let you know."
John roared with laughter and wagged his finger at him. "Okay, you keep an eye on her."
He raised an eyebrow. "Will do."
Roxanne came in, bearing a giant pot of steaming pasta and set it on the table. Patricia followed with a bowl of sauce, and without further ado, they tucked in. Roxanne mentioned something about the Senate, and a long discussion about politics followed. Bernard slurped away, unconcerned. In general, he only cared about the state of the land insofar as it affected him. Treaties about uranium possession? Count him in. Healthcare? Not so much. He had Minion to take care of him; why would he want to see a doctor? When the conversation turned to political and religious discrimination, however, he got disentangled from his spaghetti long enough to comment.
"One of my best friends says that people are always scared of him just because he's a Crip." He sipped his Kool-Aid. "I don't understand it. Why does his set determine whether he's good at being evil? Only spikes, leather, and eardrum-blastingly loud metal are truly terrifying."
They all stared at him. "Your best friend is a Crip, Bernard?" said Patricia.
He nodded. "Is that unusual?"
"No, I guess not. That's very open-minded of you."
"Oh, really? Open-minded? I just like him, that's all." He chuckled suddenly. "One time, he said that I should join, because I would be flashing the colors all the time."
"What?" said John.
"What?" He glanced down at himself with a wide gaze. He gestured nonchalantly at his front. "Oh, you know, blue shirt. But honestly, just because he's gangsta, they treat him as if he eloped with Lydia to Gretna Green. In fact, they treat him worse! At least Mrs. Bennet liked Wickham."
"Did you just go from Crips to Jane Austen?" said Patricia. "Wow."
"I'm marrying Elizabeth someday," said Bernard. "If she ever gets tired of Mr. Darcy, that is. Perhaps she might want someone more cheerful. Like me."
"What are you people talking about?"
"Dad, if you read the books, you'd know."
"Yes, you should read them," said Bernard earnestly.
John shrugged. "I tried to in eighth grade; it bored the hell out of me."
Roxanne's eyes brightened with an idea. Standing up, she struck an impressive pose, with her hand on her hip and steel in her eye. "It is a truth universally acknowledged," she said, in her best Megamind imitation, "that a supervillain in possession of a laboratory and spiky implements must be in want of a damsel. To the living room, drones of Metrocity. There is a movie that must be watched. Quickly, I have eighty-three plans to…plan."
And while Bernard watched in shock, she strutted off, her nose high in the air. Was that how he really looked?
Since he was finished, he left the table and sat down beside her. Lowering the remote, she patted the space beside her; he seated himself. She returned to channel-surfing.
Roxanne broke the silence first. "He really said that, you know. 'I have eighty-three plans to…plan."
Yes, he knew he had; no need to rub it in, vixen.
"And we really did watch a movie. We had a lovely little system going—every twenty kidnappings, I'd get a free day."
So odd, to hear Roxanne explaining his own most cherished memories to him. Her father walked in, unobserved.
"I tried to get him to give me a holiday, but he wouldn't have it. 'We can't waste time, we need Miss Ritchi for our evil plots, blah, blah, blah.' So Minion suggested that they still kidnap me, but it would be just for fun."
Sneaking a glance at John, Bernard observed him staring at Roxanne with shock.
Roxanne talked on. "There wouldn't be any threats or weapons of mass destruction, and we wouldn't call Metro Man. We were giving him a holiday, too. At first, Megamind didn't know what to do for fun or the meaning of fun, but Minion popped Flash Gordon into the Lair's console, ordered a cookie cake from Wal-Mart, and had us sit on whoopee cushions. With spikes on them. I'm not sure why watching Flash Gordon and eating sweets was more efficient than letting me do my job and have a normal abduction-free weekend, but Megamind's tiny brain isn't always logical."
"Tiny brain?" Bernard gasped. "TINY BRAIN?"
"It was actually kind of fun. Have you ever watched Ming the Merciless strut his stuff with a supervillain? We were all rooting for Ming because Flash was so insufferable. Megamind did a victory chair spin when the question mark came after 'the end.'
"He hemmed and hawed, and said that we were being so inefficient, and that we would never rule Metro City at this rate, with Minion playing all these stupid games and damsels ruling the roost, but he never forgot to stamp my card. Sometimes Minion would forget that it was a fun kidnapping, and he would remind him. 'Minion, why are you putting Miss Ritchi in the chair? Take the bag off her head, it's movie night!'"
John's frown was getting darker and darker. Bernard was actually starting to get nervous.
"What the hell is a fun kidnapping?"
"A kidnapping that doesn't involve threats of imminent doom and flamethrowers, but does have dessert?"
"And you agreed to this?"
"Agreed to what?"
"Letting him kidnap you for his own amusement!"
"But I was going to get kidnapped anyway, Dad. Sitting there tied to a chair for thirty minutes is boring. I'd much rather watch a movie or play Monopoly. Okay, he was the most temperamental Monopoly player ever, but it was better than nothing. I was just trying to make it easier on myself. What's wrong with that?"
"You're normalizing it. You sound like you're remembering college pranks. And why do you keep referring to Megamind and Minion as 'we'? 'We' aren't going to rule Metro City?"
"It looks as if I haven't been doing my duty as Stockholm Syndrome averter," said Bernard.
"Just an expression." But she looked uneasy, defensive. People on TV jabbered about shampoo. Oh, how he hated hair care commercials…
"Roxanne, please don't become a supervillain ho," John said.
"I don't even know what that is," said Bernard. "I know what ho means; I most definitely know what supervillain means, but together? It makes my head hurt. Villains don't have hoes; they have beautiful henchwomen in extra tight-clothing who don't do anything except decorate the room. That's why I've—that's why Megamind's never had one, because they're useless and they fall in love with the heroes all the time. It's such a nuisance. Besides, he's blue. Bit of a turnoff for most girls, I believe."
"How can you say that to your own daughter?"
John raised his hands placatingly. "Okay, never mind, forget it."
"Besides, if Roxanne ever went over to the dark side, you can be sure she would be a villain in her own right. Or an assistant. A highly prized minion or something. In very tight leather."
"Or a fashion accessory," said Roxanne.
"No, you're too clever for that," said Bernard loyally.
"Oh, I can be a bit dimwitted sometimes. Anyway, where was I? Before my dear father's interruption. Honestly, Dad, how could you ever think I would fall in love with Megamind, of all people? Do you think my taste in men is that bad?"
"No, but it's only reasonable that five years of kidnapping left some trauma… Not to mention the brainwashing."
"He never brainwashed me. I brainwashed him."
Oh, that was a bit too much. Brainwashed the most evil genius the world had ever known? Roxanne overestimated her ability. "Really?" He leaned towards her with a skeptical smile curving his lips. "How?"
"Let me finish, and you'll know. So, we started with twenty kidnappings. After a lot of begging, reasoning, and—"
"Batting eyelashes?" Bernard purred.
John groaned loudly.
"How did you know?"
"You are scarily good. So, yes. I did a bit of that, too. He fought the hardest over nineteen. But when fifteen rolled around, I pretended it was nineteen, and he bought it. The intervals kept getting shorter, until finally I was having a fun day every ten kidnappings. Then I ever so subtly got it to five…then four…then three. And finally, two. Minion had had enough, though, and he put a stop to it. He made Megamind make me turn in my card… for the last time."
"Has it occurred to you that perhaps he only let you think you were persuading him? Maybe he just really liked movies and played along so that he could watch them more often."
"He didn't need me to watch them. He has Minion."
"The more the merrier."
"Dad, they were just giving me a break from the job. And I slashed their villainous output by fifty percent with my scheming."
"Bravo," said Bernard.
"That doesn't make it right, Roxanne."
"I don't understand what's wrong with watching movies and relaxing and taking a break from all the drama."
"Nothing," said Bernard. "I think the frequent kidnapping card was a great idea."
"You're so open-minded, Bernard."
"That's because I'm not normal."
"That's okay. I've been kidnapped—one thousand times, now?"
"One thousand twenty-six, yes."
"You know so much about him! Yeah, one thousand twenty-six times, and I didn't really mind. It gave me several raises and a new apartment, and it was always mildly interesting to see what he'd come up with."
Though John's mouth hardened, he didn't make a remark. Instead, he vented his emotions by hammering the remote. He got it off that annoying channel with all the commercials, thank evil.
"I understand. After so many years, it must have become commonplace. You never seemed scared—on TV, I mean."
"It got boring after a while. Flamethrowers, spikes, weapons I don't even know the name of, you know the drill."
"Oh, no, not the drill!"
They collapsed in helpless laughter, while John looked at them questioningly.
The movie he selected turned out to be Star Wars. Naturally, Bernard was familiar with every Star Wars movie ever made, and he insisted on talking during the entire movie about Vader's villainous technique and speculating about what powered the Death Star. This monologue became so technical that John asked him if he had studied at MIT.
"Oh, no, I'm…" Bernard wried his mouth. "Self-educated."
"Wow. Self-educated? How?"
"Oh, they threw me out of elementary," said Bernard carelessly. The corner of his mouth curled. "Apparently, they didn't like my anarchic self-expression."
They all laughed, and Bernard smiled. Who knew that making people laugh was more pleasurable than scaring them into screaming fits of terror? He knew it wouldn't—couldn't—last forever, but who cared? It was enough to see Roxanne smile and make her happy. It didn't matter that it would all fall apart sooner or later, because he was in the now, where nothing mattered, where the sun always shined and he was almost unbearably content.
And so they watched Star Wars, while Minion frantically paged his watch and received no answer, because Bernard had it set on silent.